Not many cars can claim to have changed the face of motoring. One that can is the Citroën Light 15. Its unique selling-point was the FWD - traction-avant - system. And, the Light 15's innovative engineering did not stop there. Its 3-speed gearbox sat in front of the engine - in the nose of the car. Drive passed through CV-jointed shafts - to the torsion-bar-suspended front wheels. Such a transmission set-up was ahead of the game in '34 - when the Light 15 was released. In terms of road-holding, it was a revelation. The only downside was that the FWD made the steering a tad heavy. A few visits to the gym, though, would soon have cancelled that out!
But, there was to be a tragic twist to this tale of technological advancement. The stress caused by spiralling development costs contributed to the premature death of André Citroën - founder of the firm. Sadly, he died without a sou to his name. His company, at least, was bailed out - by tyre maestros Michelin. As a consequence, the Light 15 would remain in production for years. Ironically, it ended up a great success, sales-wise. It was also highly influential. The Light 15's FWD - and up-rated handling - made it a big hit with the French police, for example. Equally, with some less law-abiding citizens. For both cops and robbers, then, driving had never been so much fun! Thanks to its 1.9-litre overhead-valve motor, the Light 15 had a top speed of 75mph. Hair-raising chases ensued. Even so, participants did not bounce about too much. The Light 15 had fully independent torsion-bar springing!
So, the Light 15 set many a benchmark. It was not until '55 - and the coming of the DS - that Citroën let it slip into well-earned retirement. It had done much to pave the way for its successor. In particular, it had pioneered the hydro-pneumatic self-levelling suspension for which the DS would be renowned. Styling-wise, the Light 15 stayed pretty consistent during its life-span. Many a fine example can still be seen on French roads ... a clear indicator of its high build quality. The French have a saying ... in English, 'The more things change, the more they stay the same'. The Light 15 was a case in point. Technology has become so sophisticated of late, it is easy to forget that cars like the Citroën Light 15 have always been pushing the envelope!